Flexibility is the key to airpower.
This is a core tenet the U.S. Air Force uses to describe the agile use of air, space and cyberspace to help joint military forces achieve victory.
Applied to recent moves made by the Baltimore Orioles, it appears this team’s top brass has concreted a tenet it forged last season—flexibility is the key to bird power.
Per Eduarado Encina of the Baltimore Sun, the Orioles have declined Mark Reynolds' $11 million option for the 2013 season. Consequently, this terrific defensive first baseman with a thunderous (albeit inconsistent) bat is free to pursue new pastures.
While Orioles fans will miss Reynolds for his ability to infuse drama into games with towering moon shots and scrappy diving catches, fans should look forward to the 2013 season with even more excitement.
Here is why.
Last season, Orioles manager Buck Showalter was forced to hold the fort each day with a camp of journeymen acquired by Orioles Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette. Showalter achieved this with great mastery, pushing the right buttons at the right time to lead this young team to victory.
By non-tendering Reynolds (and with the Miami Marlins claiming Joe Mahoney, per the Baltimore Sun), this already enigmatic Orioles franchise has an even greater capability to plug different players into varying positions with ease.
Take the first base position for example. With Reynolds gone, Chris Davis can deploy to first. But so can Wilson Betemit. Nick Markakis can too. And with a healthy Brian Roberts, Ryan Flaherty can also move over to the position.
With depth at first base, Showalter now boasts more flexibility with his outfield platoon, especially in the corner spots. The Orioles will further bolster this reality should Nate McLouth re-sign with the birds, and should Nolan Reimold return to full form after being out most of last season. And let's not forget, Baltimore also has outfielders Lew Ford and potentially Xavier Avery and L.J. Hoes in 2013.
This flexibility is a beautiful thing on four huge fronts.
First, flexibility will make the Orioles an offensive nightmare for opposing managers to match up against every day. The birds will be able to match bats with opposing pitchers, especially late in games. Should the offense match the same depth and agility as its bullpen, the birds will be a dangerous force in the AL East.
Second, Baltimore’s ballplayers will have the opportunity to continue to grow up together and unite as brothers. It is an eerily similar culture to what the Detroit Pistons did nearly a decade ago—sign a bunch of journeymen, acquire a coach to teach these men how to play the game the right way and plug these men into a flexible infrastructure that allows for success.
Third, Baltimore’s flexibility will allow Showalter to rest his everyday players more frequently. For example, say Davis has hit a bit of a slump and looks like he could use a day of rest. Same goes for McLouth. The Orioles can move Markakis to first base and start Reimold, Ford, Avery or Hoes in right.
Fourth, barring a huge impulsive purchase, the Orioles can do all of this while saving some big-time cash.
In a tough economy, this will be a huge strategic win for Baltimore. With solid reserves in the treasury to join larger crowds at Camden Yards expected in 2013, Duquette now has greater revenue and flexibility to wheel and deal to improve a thin minor league system.
This leads us to the following questions as we near the annual baseball winter meetings in Nashville, Tennessee (December 3-6).
Will Duquette make a splash move to add a powerful weapon to the birds’ arsenal? Will Duquette add or subtract pieces to gain more prospects? Or, through smoke and mirrors, will Duquette simply stand pat?
The answers to these questions are anyone’s guess.
But it is safe to say that for the first time in a long time, Orioles faithful will be tuned into these winter meetings with greater excitement and intrigue than ever before.